Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Lawrence Alloway papers
Date (inclusive): 1935-2003
47.58 Linear Feet
(81 boxes, 5 flat file folders)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
Lawrence Alloway was a British born art
critic active in the New York art scene from 1960 until his death in 1990. An early champion
of post-war American art, he coined the term "Pop Art." The archive consists of
correspondence with his wife, the artist Sylvia Sleigh, work files, manuscripts and
clippings, personal documents, and many photographs and slides of contemporary
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Language: Collection material is in English
Lawrence Alloway, born in England in 1926 and largely self-educated, became a major 20th
century critic of American art, known for his pluralism and inclusiveness. As a young man he
was associated with the Independent Group in England, a circle of artists, critics and
writers that included Reyner Banham, and that questioned conventional distinctions between
high and low art. As a director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in London from 1954 to
1959, he introduced American Abstract Expressionism to post-war England. In 1961 Alloway
settled in New York and remained there for the rest of his life, teaching at Bennington
College (1961-1962) and SUNY Stony Brook (1968-1981), curating at the Guggenheim
Museum(1962-1966), and always simultaneously working as an art critic, which he considered
his true vocation.
Beginning as a book reviewer for the London Sunday Times (1944-1946), Alloway wrote for
and edited various art journals, including Art News (1953-1957), Art International
(1957-1961) and Artforum (1971-1976). His longest-running and most influential position was,
however, that of art reviewer for the Nation (1968-1981). Toward the end of his life he
served on the Editorial Board of Woman's Art Journal. He also wrote poetry throughout his
Notorious for having invented the term Pop Art, Alloway nonetheless treated a wide range
of subjects, from William Hogarth to science fiction, including movies, design, public
sculpture, earthworks, neo-realism, and feminism. Scorning the limiting assumptions of a
traditional art history education, he anticipated the now current concept of visual culture
as early as 1957 in his essay "The Long Front of Culture." He also analyzed the art world
from a sociological viewpoint, both as a market and as a political context. Among his
various books, at least two remain classics of art criticism: Topics in American Art since
1945 (1975) and Network:The Art World Described as a System (1972).
In 1955 Alloway married the figurative artist Sylvia Sleigh after having courted her for
several years during her marriage to another man. Through Sleigh, Alloway became closely
associated with women artists in New York during the 1970s heyday of feminism and became an
advocate of parity for women within the art world, authoring the notable "Women's Art and
the Failure of Art Criticism" (1979). He also reported on the museum worker strikes of the
1970s, resulting in another influential essay, "Museums and Unionization" (1975).
He died in 1990 of a neurological disease.
Open for use by qualified researchers. Audio visual materials from ADD1 are unavailable
until reformatting is complete.
Preferred Citation note
Lawrence Alloway papers, 1935-2003, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Acquired in 2006 from Sylvia Sleigh.
Processing Information note
Annette Leddy processed the archive and wrote the finding aid in 2008 and revised it in
September 2009. In 2012 Boxes 72-80, a gift from the Sylvia Sleigh Estate, were integrated
into the finding aid as ADD1.
In 2015 correspondence between Lawrence Alloway and Sylvia Sleigh from 148 to 1953 was
digitized as part of the GRI research project, "Lawrence Alloway, Critic and Curator." The
digital collection does not include correspondence added to the collection after the initial
acquisition, which is housed in Box 72 and Box 73.The digitized correspondence is available
Sylvia Sleigh papers, 1803-2011, bulk 1940-2000, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles,
Accession no. 2004.M.4.
Connect to finding
197 monographs were moved to the library in 2008. 136 monographs and 4 serials from ADD1
were moved to the library in 2012.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Lawrence Alloway Papers span the critic's entire career, including his earliest
reviews, notes, and writings in 1940s England. In Series I. his assiduous correspondence
with Sylvia Sleigh from the early 1950s portrays the workings of his mind and the
development of his ideas in the period just before his relocation to America. It also
conveys his impetuous personality and devotion to the person who remained his closest
companion for the rest of his life. Other correspondence is relatively scant, though there
are a number of letters from the artist Ray Johnson, and a photocopied set of correspondence
between Alloway and Jean Dubuffet. Series II. Work files reflect the topics to which he
repeatedly returned, such as Abstract Expressionism, Conceptual Art, Pop Art, museum
politics, realism, women's art, Betty Parsons, and also artists who interested him, such as
Audrey Flack, Rosemary Mayer, Robert Smithson, Vito Acconci, Allan Kaprow and Barnett
Newman. These files comprise clippings, brochures, notes, and writings, while Series VI.
Photographs and slides of art, comprise a visual record of these interests. Series V.
Personal contains photographs of Alloway in his professional life and at home with Sleigh.
Poetry by Alloway is included in letters to Sleigh and in Series II.B. Writings.
Box 41, Financial and medical papers, is restricted pending further consideration by
Arranged in nine series: Series I. Correspondence, 1938-2000 Series II. Work files,
1935-1995 Series III. Professional organizations, 1958-1959 Series IV. Teaching files,
1960-1981 Series V. Personal, 1942-1990 Series VI. Writings by others, 1947-2003 Series VII.
Photographs and slides of art, circa 1950- circa 1980 Series VIII. Audio visual, undated
Series IX. Posters, 1964-1981
Subjects - Names
Subjects - Topics
Feminism and art
Art, American -- 20th century
Genres and Forms of Material
Drawings -- United States -- 20th century